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Bookish. Publisher at Louise Walters Books. Reader, writer, and editor.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Paris Mon Amour by Isabel Costello

Today I'm thrilled to welcome author Isabel Costello to my blog. Isabel cuts quite a dash in the book world with her wonderful blog, The Literary Sofa. I've twice been a guest on the sofa, and felt it was about time I returned the hospitality!


Isabel is now also an author, with her debut novel Paris Mon Amour, published in ebook and audio in June 2016 with Canelo. Isabel made the decision to self-publish the print version of Paris Mon Amour, and that's what we're talking about on my blog today. Here she is...

Could you tell us about your decision to self–publish your novel Paris Mon Amour in print?
There are two sides to this.  Firstly, from the very start (even at the launch!) there was something about this novel that made people want a print version.  That’s largely due to the stunning cover by Dan Mogford, which we kept for the paperback. And like most authors, my dream was always to hold a book I’d written in my hand!
What actually made it happen was one of those random strokes of luck.  The Fiction Buyer from WH Smith Travel read the novel, loved it and wanted to stock it. For that, there obviously needed to be a print edition and when my and my agent’s attempts to find a print publisher didn’t succeed (the tight timescale didn’t help), I couldn’t let the opportunity pass and decided to do it myself.  It was a daunting prospect, but I really believe in this book and it would have felt like unfinished business not to.

What are the advantages of self-publishing?
It’s fantastic to be in control – you hear so many stories about authors being less than happy with their covers, blurbs, marketing efforts, etc. and I got to make those decisions and have everything just the way I wanted it, right down to the font size. I was lucky to have the support of everyone I needed to make it work: my agent, my digital publishers Canelo and the very impressive indie publishing team at Clays printers, who specialise in guiding the uninitiated through every stage.

And the disadvantages?
I suppose it’s the flipside of the above.  When you’re in charge, the buck stops with you. It was a massive learning curve and I worried about making some terrible mistake that wouldn’t come to light in time because nobody was looking over my shoulder. (It wasn’t until I’d read the finished paperback that I was fully convinced I’d sent the right version to print, despite checking a hundred times!) There’s so much to stay on top of and it’s hard work, but fortunately I’ve always enjoyed project management and collaboration and am fairly organised by nature. Finally, although the printing costs per unit are surprisingly low, overall it’s an expensive and risky venture.  Let’s just say I am not on the waiting list for any yachts!

As a self-published author, did you feel that any doors were closed to you? For instance, press coverage?
No, I have been pleasantly surprised - it was far more of an issue when my book was digital only. However, I’m not sure how representative my experience as a self-published author actually is.  This is a very unusual situation with the novel having first been commercially published in digital and audio a year ago. Wearing my marketing hat – I used to work in that field – I was able to make a virtue of the novel’s track record and the response from readers. Over half of the independent bookshops I approached individually with my Advance Information Sheet got back to me showing an interest – I was delighted.

Did any aspects of self-publishing surprise you?  (I found the marketing to be more work and more time consuming than I’d imagined…!)
The thing that surprised me most was how tricky typesetting still is.  Like many people, I na├»vely assumed that in the digital age you just run the text through a programme and it comes out looking lovely. In reality it’s an art requiring patience and painstaking attention to detail; solving one issue (such as crazy hyphenation) often causes another (‘widows and orphans’, anyone?). I am so grateful to Simon Collinson of Canelo for bringing his talents and sense of humour to the task. 

You set up your own Literary Sofa imprint to release the paperback. Do you think readers care who a book is published by?
In a word, no. I think readers mostly care about two things: whether a book appeals and whether it is any good, both in terms of content and presentation.  One of the biggest challenges self-publishers face is ‘discoverability’ – getting it onto readers’ radar in the first place.  Once that’s achieved, it’s down to us to prove we can compete.  One thing that seems to have surprised a lot of people is that the quality of my self-published book matches traditionally published ones, and I’m really proud of that.  Self-publishing has come a long way and is now an important part of the industry; disparaging it is an easy way to look out of touch.

What’s next for you?
When things calm down, I am really looking forward to making a start on my next novel, also set in Paris.  I have a detailed outline but bringing Paris Mon Amour out in print has taken over my life these last four months; it’s certainly true that self-publishing has a major impact on writing time. Otherwise, I am busy preparing for my new Perseverance and Motivation for Writers workshops with psychologist Voula Grand.  Without those ‘resilient thinking’ skills, I might not have had the nerve to tackle my paperback project, but I’m already very glad I did!


Many thanks to Isabel for joining me today. Her route to publication is a fascinating story in itself! Paris Mon Amour is a fabulous novel, which totally deserves to be available in print as well as in ebook and audio.  I wish her every success and can not wait to get my hands on a copy. 

Published on Monday 22nd May, you can buy it on Amazon, and of course in all good WHSmiths Travel bookstores. It is a perfect holiday read!

Next time I'm returning to my From the Other Side series of posts, in which I interview book bloggers. See you then! 

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